There are several things we can do to help reduce conflict in our relationships. Here are just a few of them.
- Get in touch with your feelings
An important component of conflict resolution involves only you- knowing how you feel and why you feel that way. It may seem obvious to you what your feelings are, but this isn’t always the case. Sometimes we have feelings, but don’t know where they came from. Other times, we feel that the other person isn’t doing what they “should” and we aren’t aware of what we want from them, or if it’s even reasonable. Journaling or mediating are a couple of ways to help get in touch with our feelings.
- Hone your listening skills
How effectively we listen is at least as important as how we express ourselves. It is important to understand the other person’s perspective, rather than just our own. Sometimes just helping the other person feel heard and understood is the key to resolving a conflict. Unfortunately, active listening is a skill that not everyone possesses. It’s common for people to think they are listening when they are actually thinking of their response. In a conversation, we are often thinking of ways to justify and become defensive instead of hearing the other person’s point of view. Reflecting back what the other person said is a good way to practice your listening skills and making sure you understand what is being said.
- Practice assertive communication
Communicating your needs and feeling clearly is an important aspect of conflict resolution. We want to avoid being passive or aggressive in our communication. Saying things the wrong way or not saying anything at all is probably going to make the conflict worse. Stating things in how you think or feel by using “I” statements is one way of being assertive.
- Seek a solution
Once you understand where the other person is coming from and they understand your perspective it is time to find a resolution. At times, after understanding each other’s perspective a simple and obvious answer arises. Other times a simple apology is needed if the conflict was based on a simple misunderstanding or lack of insight from the other person. Then there are the times when a little more work is needed. When there is a conflict about an issue that neither person agrees, you have a few options: agree to disagree, find a compromise, or use your communication skills to find a solution in a way that is respectful to each other.
- Find ways to connect
Another way to reduce conflict is to stay connected with your partner. Acknowledge your partner for something they contributed to the relationship. Say positive statements to each other in the morning and right before you go to bed. Stop taking each other for granted. Show empathy by thinking before reacting.
- Know when it’s not working
Being in conflict can take a toll on a person; sometimes it is just best to put some distance in the relationship or take a time out. In cases of abuse, conflict resolution techniques only go so far and personal safety needs to be a priority. When dealing with difficult people, adding a few boundaries and accepting the other’s limitations can bring peace. Only you can decide if a relationship can be improved or if you should let it go.
Conflict is unavoidable in relationships. If you need assistance helping to work through or decide what to do with your conflict the counselors at KeySolutions EAP are here to help. Give us a call at 605-334-5850.
Ideas for this article were found in the following resources:
“Conflict Resolution Skills for Healthy Relationships” by Elizabeth Scott, MS
“Relationship and Stress” by Phyllis R Koch-Sheras, PhD and Peter L. Sheras , PhD, ABPP
“Tips to Keep Your Relationship in Full Bloom” by www.GoodTherapy.org